Andy Lyons/Getty Images

No. 2 Kentucky handles Stephen F. Austin 87-64 in opener

Leave a comment

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky’s latest highly touted freshman class showed their expected potential, but only after a boost from the veterans.

Isaiah Briscoe scored 17 points, Derek Willis added 15 and No. 2 Kentucky went on to an 87-64 season-opening victory over Stephen F. Austin on Friday night.

An opener expected to highlight the Wildcats’ latest group of talented freshmen instead saw veterans such as sophomore guard Briscoe and Willis, a senior forward, shoulder the load. They combined to make 11 of 18 from the field while their experience offset the newcomers’ early shooting troubles. Seven-foot sophomore Isaac Humphries (9 points, 8 rebounds) filled a big inside void with 6-10 freshman Bam Adebayo (five points) hampered by foul trouble.

Senior guard Mychal Mulder, a transfer who scored just 12 points last season for the Wildcats, had eight on a team-high two 3-pointers.

“Before the game Coach (John Calipari) reminded us that they’re young and it’s their first game, so make sure everything out there is in order,” said Briscoe, who worked out for several NBA teams last spring before deciding to return for a second season.

Several freshmen did their part with forward Wenyen Gabriel scoring 10 first-half points off the bench. Guard De’Aaron Fox added 12 points and broke a 36-year-old program record for assists in an opener with 12, while Malik Monk had 10 second-half points.

Isaiah Traylor scored 15 points and Leon Gilmore III had 12 with 11 rebounds for Stephen F. Austin, which lost the debut of coach Kyle Keller. The Lumberjacks outrebounded Kentucky 36-28 but committed 28 turnovers leading to 32 points.

BIG PICTURE

Stephen F. Austin: Despite losing eight players from last year’s team, the Lumberjacks early on resembled the competitive NCAA Tournament team that upset third-seeded West Virginia before losing by five points to No. 6 seed Notre Dame in the second. They slowed the pace before the Wildcats’ height and depth took over.

Keller became first of three SFA coaches this century to lose his debut, but the Lumberjacks should make a strong push for their first straight Southland Conference regular season title.

“When we look back on this game, we’re going to draw on it,” said Keller, who took over after being a Texas A&M assistant. “We’re going to get a lot of confidence from this.”

Kentucky: Willis followed up last season’s breakout by being the steadying force early, making 3 of 4 field goals with two blocks. He finished with five rebounds. Humphries was a pleasant surprise with Adebayo spending much of the first half on the bench. The Wildcats shot 50 percent but were still outrebounded.

“We’re one of those teams that is so young,” Calipari said, “not disciplined enough defensively, should be a better rebounding team. We got outrebounded.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Kentucky is likely to remain in position and won’t face that question until after meeting No. 12 Michigan State next week in New York.

SELFLESS PLAY

Calipari preaches unselfishness to players and brags about his succession of standout point guards that have set the tone, most recently by Tyler Ulis. Fox offered glimpses of being Kentucky’s next floor general by breaking Dirk Minniefield’s old mark of 11 assists against Butler on Nov. 27, 1982.

“I didn’t even realize I was doing it,” Fox said. “I knew I wasn’t shooting the ball well. Teammates were cutting and finishing when I was passing the ball to them, so all the credit is to them.”

BAM’S ROUGH NIGHT

Adebayo was expected to get most of the attention because of his NBA-caliber game and build. But his physical style drew two quick fouls and four overall, leaving him with just one rebound in 15 minutes.

UP NEXT

Stephen F. Austin: Returns home to host Longwood on Tuesday and regroup from the loss.

Kentucky: Hosts Canisius on Sunday in the first meeting between the schools since 1998. The Wildcats have won previous games against the Golden Griffins and seek a strong tuneup before facing No. 12 Michigan State on Tuesday in New York.

AP college basketball: collegebasketball.ap.org

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
4 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
7 Comments

LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

Getty Images
4 Comments

The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.